The Native American Vote Matters

How Indigenous voters made a difference, and will continue to do so.

The Native American Vote Matters (Getty Images)

In the last five years, Gen Z has come of voting age and they tend to be disillusioned with traditional political structures and parties, and are skeptical of mainstream politics. About eight million Gen Z are eligible to vote this year and of that number, 47% are BIPOC. YR Media’s “Control Z: #Vote2024” series examines the impact the young generation will have this election season and how more Gen Z candidates are looking to have a seat at the table.

In the 2024 Arizona election, young and Native voters played a pivotal role in securing the state for President Joe Biden. Having helped him win by a margin of just 11,400 votes in 2020, these groups are expected to wield considerable influence in both the presidential and congressional races.

Despite their demonstrated impact, there is a consensus among strategists and politicians that more effort is needed to engage and court Native voters, according to NPR. Arizona, a battleground state, is home to 22 federally recognized Native tribes, with over 300,000 Native American individuals facing unique governance, historical, and participation challenges.

Jaynie Parrish, executive director of Arizona Native Vote, emphasized the power of Native voters, calling for acknowledgment and collaboration from others. The organizers highlight ongoing challenges with outreach from both Democratic and Republican parties, with stereotypes associating Native voters with Democrats.

Arizona GOP State Rep. David Cook urges Republicans to reach out to Native voters, emphasizing the importance of connecting with the community beyond stereotypes. Limited attempts from the Republican Party are noted, contrasting with Democratic efforts, which include national and local outreach roles.

Loren Marshall, director of campaigns and engagement for Northeast Arizona Native Democrats, discusses encountering pushback from younger voters who are hesitant to participate in a system they believe has historically damaged their communities. Despite this, Marshall expresses confidence in high voter turnout for Democrats due to community-based organizing.

Arizona ranks as a top state where young voters can significantly influence the presidential and Senate elections, according to Tufts University data. NPR interviewed six young indigenous Arizona voters representing various tribes, offering insights into their perspectives and experiences.

The voters discuss misconceptions about their communities, lack of understanding from politicians, and issues such as water access, poor infrastructure, and economic challenges. They stress the need for politicians to genuinely engage, address community concerns, and move beyond photo opportunities.

The young voters shared their defining moment during the 2020 election when they felt their voices were heard, acknowledging the significance of Native Americans having the right to vote in federal elections for 100 years. Despite reservations about both major political parties, they recognize the impact of their votes.

The voters express uncertainty about President Biden’s record, citing issues such as the border wall and disappointment over his handling of certain matters. While acknowledging Biden’s administration’s financial support for Tribal communities, they emphasize the need for clear communication on these efforts.

These young indigenous voters call for acknowledgment and engagement from politicians, emphasizing that it’s their time to influence elections. They urged politicians to see and understand their communities, listen to their concerns, and move beyond superficial interactions.

Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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